Aug. 23, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B. Readings:
1) Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Psalm 34:2-3, 16-21
2) Ephesians 5:21-32 or Ephesians 5:2a, 25-32
Gospel: John 6:60-69
By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service
St. Augustine, fifth-century bishop and writer of the “Confessions,” is often quoted as saying to God, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” St. Augustine knew himself — and the condition of the human heart — very well.
In spiritual life, as in most things, we often are attracted by novelty. Like the tribes of Israel who were drawn to the spiritual practices of their Canaanite neighbors, we get easily distracted and forget the great works that God has done for us.
Joshua understands this and brings the tribes at Shechem to a moment of clarity. Given the options of serving the gods of the Amorites, the former gods of their ancestors or the God who delivered them from Egypt, Joshua makes them choose — today — whom they will serve.
Jesus has given his followers a difficult choice as well — a “hard saying.” Having stated that he is the “living bread that came down from heaven,” Jesus knew that his disciples would be forced to either accept or reject him, and the results would be mixed. The moment of decision brought an end to the novelty that attracted them to Jesus in the first place. In fact, the Gospel tells us that “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”
Similarly, St. Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians on marriage offers a challenging choice for our age. “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is hardly the counsel heard amid the cacophony of designer gown boutiques, honeymoon resorts, glossy magazines and reality TV shows through which the wedding industry provides a steady stream of novelties designed to make marriage look exciting and new. When the novelty of the wedding is gone, what happens to the marriage?
In our search for fulfillment, we are constantly met with an entire menu of options, and many of them satisfy — for a little while. St. Augustine knew this as well, having tasted all of the novelties and attractions that life had to offer him.
But the psalmist invites us to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” What many dismiss as old-fashioned, tedious or unexciting brings us to abundant life. Like St. Augustine, we experience the Lord as “beauty ever ancient, ever new!”
What novelties or distractions in your life have dulled your taste for the goodness of the Lord? How can you choose to allow the Lord to fulfill the restlessness of your heart?